If you do this wine thing for a living at some stage you will have to take notes. When I started I used to write notes on every bottle opened, everything tasted. This is tedious after a while, and you look like a geek in restaurants. And anywhere else to be honest. So after a while I went by memory and I had a good theory that worked: if a wine was vile, faulty, badly made or similar I’d remember it. If it was exceptional, stylish, classy, well made, etc, etc: I’d remember it. Anything I didn’t remember would be passable.
This still holds true: I can still remember tasting 1927 Taylor nine years ago. I can tell you where I was to the nearest foot. Ditto 1949 Gruaud-Larose. Both positive, and 1927 Taylor remains in my top five all-timers. On the negative side I can still remember, with geographical position, a knackered 1998 Bienvenues-Batard, Leflaive in 2003 and corked 1964 Petrus in the same year. And the bigshots that didn’t notice…
I do take notes when tasting wines where they are made. This is usually in Bordeaux or Burgundy, and usually cask samples being shown ahead of an en-primeur release. Next month 2008 Burgundy; last April 2008 Bordeaux.
Clive Coates writes an excellent article: Why Most Tasting Notes Are A Waste Of Space. He’s spot on in many respects here but he misses a key point: the personal nature of taste. I miss Clive’s notes on the most recent Burgundy vintage because his palate chimes with mine. Moreover, I understand what he’s writing (whereas I find Parker, for instance, a long way from my palate in many cases and writing in a different language, American).
My notes make sense to me. And they might to Mr Coates. “Is it dancing? Yes, gently.” I reckon Mr Coates might actually be able to pick this one (it’s 2007 Chambolle, Amoureuses, Mugnier) but a long shot. And it makes perfect sense to me (wine from this vineyard, les Amoureuses: the Lovers, should dance on the palate – it’s the test). But it will be pretentious drabble to most.
And every now and again a wine is above mere words in the same way that many are above scores. Mr Mugnier, maker of above-mentioned Chambolle, and a man with some genius quotes, says: “great wines do not need long notes”, and he’s right. My note on the greatest Bordeaux that I have ever tasted from cask ends with the word “love”. At was the only word that I could think of that reflected how the wine made me feel.